pediatric housecalls Robert R. Jarrett M.D. M.B.A. FAAP

Times To Call Your Pediatrician – Besides the Obvious

In researching for another article I ran across another doctor who had made a handout listing for her patients the “Eight times to call your pediatrician.” That made me think about some of the advice I might give patients which might not make it elsewhere into pamphlets, handouts, parenting books or blogs.

First, these are not all inclusive or definitive but I’ll try to make them as least as complete as I can think about while sitting here at the computer. I’ll tell you again though: you know your child best and if there’s something out of the ordinary that worries you, it’s better to be safe and call than to be sorry and not call. That is what your pediatrician wants you to do so there is no reason to apologize; but, if you really can’t get over it, bring the nurse a cookie the next time you come in.

Anyway, believe me, from what I’ve seen of doctors in the past several years, there will probably be a lot of people who answer your phone call before the doctor says “hello” whose job it is to keep you from being embarrassed by calling needlessly.

Also, if you can, do try and think about the time of day. If you’ve got a question about your child’s condition but are leaning toward not calling – give yourself a specific time to take a second look. For example, if you think there could be an issue later on but not immediately, it STILL pleases most pediatricians to get a heads up while they are still in the office. They may give specific advice of what to look for, what to do to help and even a number to call if you need.

Calling The Pediatrician

These are not the things that would be obviously an emergency like “not breathing,” “being unconscious” or “bleeding profusely.” These are merely the things where I’ve seen parents wonder and worry about whether they should “bother the doctor.” Where, for some reason or another, it may be unclear or there may be a question.

mother calling the doctor for advice about her baby's illness

  1. Let’s get this out of the way first: absolutely any infant under three months with a fever, rectal temperature of 100.4ºF (38ºC) or greater, whether or not there are other symptoms.
  2. A fever that is acting “squirrelly.” Namely one that goes away then comes back the next day; or, one that doesn’t go down with a dose of fever medicine (like Ibuprophen or Tylenol); or, one that goes down with medicine but hangs around for a few days.
  3. A fever that produced poor food intake for a couple of days; or, even one day if the urine drops off too.
  4. Pain in the abdomen that seems to get worse when you try to “kiss it better,” especially if it’s on the right side. Appendicitis gives a child a stomach ache like the “stomach flu” but it nearly always gets worse if you press on the belly and they usually don’t want to be touched.
  5. Difficulty swallowing, not just soreness from a sore throat. One might be concerned about a foreign body or an allergic reaction to a food or sting.
  6. A headache that also has a fever or is making them vomit.
  7. An injury from a fall where they are still complaining about it and favoring it a day later.
  8. A rash or sore that seems to be making them sick; or, one that they get after they get sick; or, one that merely makes mom say “Ewww” or dad “What the crap is that?”
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